CAN YOU DO A TRIATHLON?
When I signed up for Kona in 1985, it never occurred to me that I would not finish. I had no idea what I was getting into, no clue what to do, what equipment I needed, how to train, and couldn’t swim front crawl for more than 2 lengths. I didn’t own a road bike and had not run since public school.
My first long swim: The first time I swam a mile nonstop at the U of T pool it took me 42 minutes. I went to work pumped and pleased with myself. Bragging of my accomplishment, all my co-workers were impressed and agreed that I was a stud! I can now visualize what I must have looked like
My first long ride : I went to visit my family in Grimby for the weekend sometime in May. My brother took me to a bike store in Hamilton. I picked out a fancy white frame with red wheels. I was given a quick fit on the bike, put on my overnight backpack and rode home to Toronto along the lakeshore.
My first long run over an hour: the Hamilton Marathon in May. I don’t recall much about the race except that I could not walk for a week after.
In 1985 most people did not even know what triathlon was and I was regarded either as wacko or an athletic goddess, depending on who you were talking to.
So we all know where the sport has gone in the last 30 years.
SO….CAN YOU DO AN IRONMAN?
If you have never been to an IM, you would be very surprised at all the shapes, sizes and ages that cross that finish line before the 17 hour cut off. It is no longer a sport of 30 somethings with 8% body fat. With a bit of motivation and 8 months of smart training it is possible to cross the line before midnight
The number one excuse I hear is… I would love to do a triathlon but I don’t think a can. If one of your kids said they really wanted to do something but “ I don’t think I can” How would you answer this?
I have heard every excuse over the past 20 years …. If you say you want to do an IM, have the time and the money then the only thing stopping you are the excuses.
Time- Yes it is a very time consuming endevour for about 6 – 8months of your life. Is it worth it? Talk to someone who balances work, kids and house stuff and find out how they manage. If you think it is worth the effort then you will find the time to train. Give up the TV, go to bed early and get up early. At work, do some core and stretch on your lunch. Instead of sitting on the pool deck watching your kids swim laps, or practice in the hockey rink – take that time to go for a run. They will still grow up to be well adjusted adults if you are not there at the practice… If your kids are young, ride your trainer, run on a TM, join the Y and while they are in the kiddie program get in the pool. I did not have the money to pay a sitter when my boys were young so 5 hour trainer rides in the backyard made me mentally strong, with rests to break up fights, make lunches etc. I wanted to do it so this was the way I got in my training.
If your kids are older have then ride their bike along with you while you run-
Over the years, I have had a number of people contact me as they want to do an IM but they have been told by their coach that they are “not ready” Hmm …Are you there to win the race? Nope. A very small percentage of participants are sub 10 hour uber athletes. Everyone else is just out to enjoy challenge of the training and do their best on race day.
So one of my favourite examples of “it is posible if you want it”…
Dr Michelle is a professor at Western, a mom of 3 VERY loud and active boys, wife of Tim who thinks we are all just a bit off, a TO certified coach, shows up for everything [ and if there is no sitter then the boys just come along anyhow] she is my “it”gal…. video / tech assistant “IT” for all my swim clinics, always on time and I can always count on her to be there. Michelle completed IM Mont Tremblant in 2014 and is signed up again for this August
She works hard, has fun and keeps it positive. How does she do it? She just does it…
2017 marks my 23rd year in coaching. I started off by hand writing programs for friends and over the next 10 years as the sport started to grow, so did the number of aspiring athletes. About 8 years ago I was able to give up my full time MT practice and coach full time.
I have learned a lot about the athletic attitude and how people approach taking on this new sport, regardless of the distance one starts off with. The methodical “nerds” who have the 5 year plan to do an IM and then those fearless few who sign up for the big distance without ever having done a Tri, and everything in between
Over the last few decades I have been a part of hundreds of athletes’ accomplishments and can predict which personalities who do especially well. I am not saying that you have to be an uber athlete with genetics like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. My gauge is how people perform based on the best of their abilities, the time they have to train, how much they will enjoy the trip to the start line and how they feel about their race a couple of days after they have crossed the line.
And if this sport becomes a permanent investment; how much improvement is made after a couple of years.
So…here’s the thing …:) The number one factor in completing a triathlon is the desire to do one. Next; the time to train and of course the money to have to pay for the equipment and race fees
Usually within a 30 min chat with new athletes I can determine whether they are realistic with their goals and if they will follow through on the training. If they are signing up because they want to lose weight then I refer them to a gym and a personal trainer. If they are tired of feeling lousy, want to change their lifestyle and hang out with a people who are of like mind then I know they have a shot at success. If they are already a motivated runner and tired of being injured then we have almost a %100 chance of success
Very few people overestimate their abilities. Most will come to me with the “ I just want to finish” but as the summer progresses and their fitness improves, the expectations change, time goals are set and usually confidence takes over.
If you are 50 years old, work 50 hour a week and have a family, you cannot compare yourself to an unemployed 30 year old, with the time to recover, nap, get massages, yoga etc.
So if you have a few of the following traits then you are ready for a new challenge. If you are already into triathlons and wondering why you are underachieving perhaps a re-evaluation of your priorities may be in order. If you already have most of these traits then you are Brittany Dunbar!
• Self confidence
• Positive attitude
• Tolerance for discomfort
• Support from family
I list talent last. If you have a positive attitude and enjoy pushing your limits, you will be successful at Triathlon regardless of your DNA.
Evolution of aTriGeek
In the spring of 1985 I signed up for some Kona thing by paying a $180 entry fee. I then bought a $500 bike because I liked the colour of the wheels [red], got a pool membership at U of T because apparently you had to do a bit of a swim first, and entered a marathon to confirm that I could run 26 miles. With very few race options, my first triathlon was the Lake Placid ½ Ironman. This was the IM course except the bike looped the opposite route and you climbed up the 7 mile hill. I panicked and whined and bobbed my way through the swim and walked most of the run. That was my prep for the big day…I was ready to take on Kona.
So things have changed slightly since then. In that first race season, my equipment consisted of a pair of goggles, a cheap helmet and I wore the same shoes for both the bike and run. There were no tribikes, wetsuits, race wheels, aerobars, aerohelmets, bike computers, Timex watches, GPS, clip pedals, gatorade and gels, HRM’s or power meters, gadgets and gizmos, electronic shifters, Co2 cartridges, compression socks, racing flats, race belts, magazines and certainly there was no such thing as a triathlon coach.
Over the following 10 years information and technology started to become available and I made use of it. But my greatest success was in making every mistake I could pack into a season. I discovered what injuries were and had plenty of them and I spent most of my fastest racing days on the sidelines as a volunteer due to recurring calf tears and low back pain. Clearly just swimming, biking and running was not working for me.
So I took an alternate route. I tossed most of the instant feedback doodads and started to train on perceived effort, discovered Pilates and core before it was fashionable, spent significant time in the gym and yoga studio and bought a Concept II rower. I also became a Sport Massage therapist and began to notice obvious patterns in personalities and recurring injuries; the “hammer” competitive mindset and those who would take the time be proactive with their rest, core, balance and stretching.
Since ditching most of the electronics and using “ brain training”, the only injuries I have experienced are from falling off my bike [yes I still do this at least once a year] or face planting while trail running… no wear and tear “overuse”aches and pains that athletes of a certain age acquire over years of abuse.
I started racing watchless and without a bike computer, began to focus on my efficiency rather than my speed, and not on my competition and prize money. I set the goal to be a foo foo dork and enjoy the day, be grateful that I lived in a safe world where I was able spend my spare time on a very selfish and expensive sport. And OMG!!!…I got faster at IM in my 40’s when I had a full time job and two busy boys. Rats..If I had only known all this in my 30’s….
If numbers and data are your hobby, then by all means get out your flow charts and spread sheets and analyze and compare and talk about it with your fellow excel nerds . Absolutely nothing wrong with this. And as a training gauge for pacing and/or if you are one to not push yourself or blow up all too often then numbers are for you.
But if you just wanna have fun, then surround yourself with a positive group of training partners who are faster than you and I bet you will have just as successful a day.
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